MIAMI — Noah Gragson wants to do exactly what his former teammate Christopher Bell did a year ago on Friday night at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway — win the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship.
Gragson is seeking his first series title in his second and final season with Kyle Busch Motorsports. Following Friday’s Ford EcoBoost 200, he’ll graduate to the NASCAR Xfinity Series with JR Motorsports,but hopes to deliver his No. 18 Toyota crew a title before he moves up.
“This is it, man. It’s a great opportunity (to be able to chase a championship) and it’s one I’ve been dreaming about for a long time,” Gragson told SPEED SPORT ahead of the final race of the season. “Now to be able to run for it is very special for me and I’m really excited for what’s in store in the race.
“This year definitely hasn’t been as flashy as we wanted it to be, but we’ve been consistent and persevered,” added Gragson, who has one win this year. “Ever since Daytona, we’ve had one goal and one focus in mind, and that was to make it here to Homestead. I’d have liked to have more wins at this point in the season, certainly, but you can’t change the past. You just have to focus on the future.”
Despite only having one victory this year, Gragson’s consistent record of seven top-five and 16 top-10 finishes — as well as six poles — gives him confidence his team can rise to the occasion when it counts.
“It’s not like we’re just racing for a championship this weekend; we’ve been running for it all year,” Gragson noted. “We’ve kept that mindset firm and this weekend is no different than any other weekend for us, as far as I’m concerned.”
Gragson also believes Homestead’s worn 1.5-mile surface should favor him during the 134-lap, 200-mile race.
“Homestead is definitely a very different race track,” said Gragson. “I feel like I’ve learned a lot about it through the Toyota simulator and the video preparation that I’ve been doing. Tires definitely wear out there very quickly and you have to keep chasing the track all throughout the race to stay on top of your adjustments.
“I think Friday night will be an interesting race and we’ll just have to see if we can come out on top.”
Over his two seasons with Kyle Busch Motorsports, Gragson has evolved from an outspoken jokester into a driver who still certainly knows when he can have fun, but has gained a different level of focus when it’s time to get down to business.
That level of maturity has been achieved largely off the race track, said Gragson.
“I just feel like I’ve learned a lot more about what to look for going into the weekend and really a lot of that is just myself maturing from a teenager to an early 20‑year‑old,” he noted. “I feel like my race craft has definitely improved, but a lot more of it is the off-track preparation and then just the maturity factor of that.”
“It’s been a great two years with Kyle Busch Motorsports. I’ve been very fortunate to be able to drive for one of the best drivers in the Cup Series, if not the best and that’s really exciting and really fun.”
Amid all the emotions that go into Ford Championship Weekend, Gragson admitted he’s not sure what he’s feeling going into Friday night’s pressure-packed showdown, but he plans to enjoy every minute of the experience.
“I don’t know if I’m feeling excited, if I’m feeling nervous or if I feel the pressure. To be honest, I don’t know what I’m feeling, so I guess it’s D: all of the above,” said Gragson. “But most importantly, I’m getting the chance to do something I’ve always dreamed of, and that’s to race for a championship in the Truck Series. I would have never dreamed that I’d be in this position as a young kid, so I feel like I just have to enjoy the opportunity. Rarely in life do you get an opportunity like this.
“Ultimately, I want to make the most of my opportunity and just have some fun and do my job, and that’s to go out there and win the race,” Gragson added. “If you win the race, you win the championship and all is said and done. We just have to do what we’ve done all year: go out, lead laps and run fast.”